Town Board Declares War on Illegal Trash Dumping

The Philipstown Town Board at a meeting last fall. (L-R) Councilman Van Tassel; Councilwoman Montgomery, Supervisor Shea, Councilwomen Budney and Scuccimarra, with Town Clerk Merando.

A serious issue and very costly to the town

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong 

Philipstown Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico has been “talking trash” for months, complaining about scofflaws who illegally deposit rubbish along town roads. Town Board members — supervisor and councilors — have joined in the chorus at monthly meetings. Now they’ve issued a near declaration of war against dumpers who eschew dumpsters and clog the countryside. The board discussed the issue last Thursday (July 7) at its formal monthly meeting at which it also covered other road matters, got updates on fire department activity, and set a hearing date for proposed rules for use of Philipstown Park.
       In his report to the board on Thursday, Chirico wrote that “once again, the Highway Department cannot emphasize enough the cost associated with disposing of garbage found along the roadside. This has become a serious issue and very costly to the town.” Chirico’s report appealed to residents “to join in a neighborhood watch and report any illegal dumping to the sheriff, highway [department], or code enforcement officer. Identification of the vehicle doing illegal dumping is necessary, along with a plate number to catch these individuals.” To help identify and nail the culprits, the town government is looking into installation of cameras at the “hot spots” where dumping occurs, Supervisor Richard Shea announced.  “We are fed up with people dumping in Philipstown.  It’s disgraceful; it really is,” he said.  “It does cost us quite a bit of money.”
       In a follow-up phone conversation Monday (July 11), Chirico reiterated his concern. “I plead to the public to call so I can report somebody” to law enforcement authorities and start putting an end to the bad behavior. “Who’s going to catch them? I’m getting very little help.” He noted that his highway department personnel are not supposed to be trash collectors and that in addition, “there’s no budget for this” extra duty. Although he could not immediately provide the dollar amount represented, he said that each ton of illicit rubbish costs $140 to get rid of. The stuff dumped includes some household garbage as well as furniture, mattresses, sheetrock, an occasional appliance, such as a washing machine, and lots of tires. “Tires are one of the biggest,” he said. Then there are the empty medicine containers, like the cache found bearing the name of a man in the Peekskill area. When contacted, the individual in question said that he used a Cold Spring hauler to get rid of his trash, Chirico explained.   

Road repairs and ‘world’s longest traffic-light program’
In other highway-related business, Chirico also reported Thursday that his department had re-opened a stretch of Indian Brook Road, damaged by storms in March and closed temporarily for repairs. With that project completed, the department moved on to fix Sprout Brook Road, “in desperate need of repair” and other projects are on the agenda on town roads as well, he said.
        Shea informed the board that the State of New York Department of Transportation plans work on Route 9, from the Westchester County line to Route 301. “That’s good news for us. The road is in terrible condition,” he said. He joked, that once repaired “people can drive 110 miles per hour instead of 100.” Farther north on Route 9, at the intersection with Fishkill Road “state crews poured the bases for  the long-sought traffic light and were waiting for them to set, which  takes about four weeks, before finishing the installation. “The world’s longest traffic-light program is underway,” he said. 

Honors for Girl Scouts
The meeting began with Town Board commendations to two young Philipstown residents, Emily Knapp and Tess Dul, for receiving the Gold Award, Girl Scouting’s highest achievement. Ms. Knapp was cited for assisting middle-school students through an often-difficult period of their lives while Ms. Dul was honored for starting a garden to help the Philipstown Food Pantry supply fresh produce to clients. “For a small town we certainly do have some amazing people here,” Shea said, extending congratulations to the honorees “and their parents, too.” 

Fire Department issues
The sometimes-fraught issue of fire department practices came up twice at the meeting. During his monthly report to the board, Jamie Copeland, president of the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company, referred to recent doubts about the adequacy of fire department training. The controversial report by town consultant Ron Graner, reviewed at a spirited public forum in June, pointed to perceived deficiencies in inter-agency training programs. Copeland told the board that “over a six-week period starting June 30, we have six training exercises with our mutual-aid partners, including Peekskill.”
       Councilor John Van Tassel, a former chief of the North Highlands Fire Department, lauded an example of inter-departmental cooperation he saw at a recent, serious accident. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way you all operated,” he said. Later in the meeting, Van Tassel observed that personnel from the fire companies had met the previous evening with Joseph Hines, a mediator helping to resolve frictions between the departments and local government and public. “It started out a little rough,” but with Hines’ involvement the tone “improved and became cooperative,” he said. Van Tassel added that such discussions will probably not explore the volatile topic of consolidation. Rather, he said, “they’re going to stay focused on the identified safety problems.” 

Rules for park use
The board also released the text of a draft law governing use of Philipstown Town Park. The proposed law would constitute a new section, Chapter 130, of the town code. At the park the draft bans alcohol consumption, dogs, smoking, golfing, illegal substances, fires, dumping or leaving of trash, and amplifying sound on playing fields or driving cars on them. The law would also require groups of six or more persons to obtain a permit from the Recreation Department and likewise require approval for anyone using the park after dusk and for use of playing fields by non-residents. Violators of the law could be fined up to $250 or sentenced to up to 15 days in jail, or both. The law does not mention guns. A proposal earlier this year to prohibit guns and similar lethal weapons from town property bogged down in acrimonious debate that drew in the National Rifle Association. The board set a public hearing on the park rules for Wednesday, July 20, the same evening as a public hearing on another proposed law, reducing the number of town assessors from three to one. 

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